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My Cat Is Breathing Heavy: Should I Be Worried?

My Cat Is Breathing Heavy: Should I Be Worried?

While occasional panting or after strenuous activity is considered normal, persistent heavy breathing may indicate a health condition. In this blog, our Poway emergency vets will explore the potential causes of heavy breathing in cats.

Heavy Breathing In Cats

When it comes to heavy breathing in cats, immediate veterinary attention is crucial as it may indicate a severe underlying health issue. If you notice your cat panting or struggling to breathe, it's essential to evaluate the situation and consider contacting us for emergency care.

It is recommended to take your cat to the veterinarian without delay if you have any concerns about their heavy breathing, open-mouthed breathing, or the presence of other concerning symptoms, as emergency care may be necessary. 

Is Panting Normal For Cats?

While panting is more commonly associated with dogs, there are situations where cats may also exhibit this behavior. It's important to take a moment to consider the circumstances leading up to your cat's panting episode. Similar to dogs, cats may pant due to anxiety, overheating, or after vigorous exercise.

In these cases, the panting should resolve on its own once your cat has had a chance to rest, cool down, or relax. However, it's crucial to note that panting is relatively rare in cats compared to dogs. Therefore, if you are uncertain about the reasons behind your cat's panting, it is advisable to seek veterinary evaluation.

Causes of Heavy Breathing in Cats


Some of the most common symptoms of asthma in cats include panting, wheezing, coughing, and increased respiratory rate. While asthma in cats may not be cured, it can be successfully managed with corticosteroids or bronchodilators.


Heartworm in cats could result in breathing difficulties. Heartworm treatments consist of supportive care with corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and in more serious situations oxygen therapy. Since heartworm disease can be deadly, it's imperative for your kitty to stay on a monthly heartworm preventative medication.

Hydrothorax & Congestive Heart Failure

Hydrothorax is a condition characterized by the accumulation of fluid in and around the lungs, it can cause deep, rapid breathing, coughing, and panting. Treatment may include draining the fluid, as well as medications to dilate blood vessels, get rid of excess fluid, and make the heart contract more forcefully.

Respiratory Infections

When cats develop respiratory infections, their ability to breathe normally can be compromised. Labored breathing or panting may be observed in these cases. Respiratory infections in cats often originate as viral infections but can progress to secondary bacterial infections.

In order to facilitate easier breathing for your feline companion, treatment with antibiotics may be necessary. Additionally, the use of humidifiers and steam can help loosen mucus and alleviate nasal congestion as your cat recovers.

Other Possible Causes

Here are some other reasons why your cat may be panting:

  • Trauma
  • Abdominal enlargement and pain
  • Anemia
  • Neurologic disorders

Contact our Poway emergency vets immediately if you are worried about your cat's breathing. We are available to help your pet when they need it the most.

Experienced Emergency Vet Care in Poway

Animal Emergency Clinic of San Diego is a family-run after-hours and critical care hospital, providing veterinary emergency care since 1985. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, contact us to get the help your pet needs.

Contact Us

Contact (858) 748-7387